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Jack Littler's story Revenge placed third in the recent UK Transatlantic Critique Club literary competition, for which TFR editors served on the judging panel. Other winners may be found on the poetry and short story competition pages on the UKTCC web site. --egh
By Jack Littler

It was a typical November evening; dank, dark, and silent. Truly silent. So silent I could hear the cold grass crunching beneath my feet as I slowly made my way along the hedgerow, which divided the field from the lane.

The dampness in the air made halos around the three amber street-lights. I could just discern the faint, smoky, smell of garden bonfires which had been allowed to die away as the dim daylight had faded into almost total darkness.

I knew exactly where I was going, I had after all, followed this route before.

There were twelve, large, detached houses on the other side of the lane. Not the type of detached house favoured by the old, wealthy class. These were the modern rich, the estate agents, insurance brokers, and building society managers, whose mortgages were subsidised by their companies.

The end house, the one next to the school, was the one I was interested in.

Melvyn Watts' house. The one with the double-width drive, with the arched gateway leading to the back garden. The one with the stained glass in the mahogany front door. None of these things gave the impression of true wealth. They were all of a quality that a person terrified of spending his money might buy. There just for show; to tell his neighbours that he, too, was of their class, but failing, miserably, to do so.

As I drew opposite the house I crouched down. From the inside of my gabardine coat, I withdrew the two canvas bags. The sweet, sickly smell of machine oil escaped from the bags and coated the lining of my nostrils as I carefully unwrapped the parts of my Westminster .303 rifle. The metal parts were all dull; ideal for night use.

I assembled the rifle with barely a glance down at the parts. The hours of practice in the dark, privacy of my living room were now paying off. The bolt slid home and, as I pushed the bolt handle down, there was just the faintest of clicks.

The low-lying mist was suddenly illuminated about half a mile up the lane. This would be Melvyn's maroon Jaguar bringing him home from his office.

I found a small gap between the twigs and leaves of the hedge, and poked the barrel of the rifle through. I could cover the full width of the drive, and the area either side of the front door from where I crouched.

The drone of the Jag's engine was just perceptible now. It drew closer, and turned into this part of the lane.

The light in the hall of the house opposite was turned on, the coloured glass of the stained window took on a beauty of an almost religious nature, 'How appropriate.' I thought to myself.

The car turned onto the drive and halted in front of the double garage doors. I noticed the car level up as Melvyn eased his body out of the driver's door. The hazard lights flashed as he set the car alarm.

He walked so casually towards his front door. Casual and confident. He was a man used to having everything go his way. Well - Mr. Melvyn Watts - things were going to change quite dramatically for you. Just as they had for me all those weeks ago.

The rifle felt comfortable - very comfortable, in my hands. The stock rested firmly against my shoulder. I squinted through the rear sight and along the barrel. My army sergeant's voice penetrated my brain.

'Nah then. Yew git the tip of the foresight, in the centre of the rear aperture, right? Then yew git the whole lot in the centre of the target. Orlright? And don't forgit, yew don't pull or jerk the trigger, you gently, ever so gently, squeeeeeze it. Treat it as you would a woman. Ever so gently like.'

It always sounded as though he was on the brink of sexually ejaculating.

As Melvyn reached the front door it opened. There she was. Wendy. My Wendy.

The deep-felt anger caused bile to rise in my throat and I was afraid I was going to ruin everything by coughing. I swallowed gently, overcoming the desire to puke as the sour fluid hit my taste buds.

This was the man who had stolen my wife. MY WIFE. He had, over several weeks tempted her with gifts, flowers, clothes. When I had been out of town on business he had taken her to the best hotels in the district and wined and dined her and - and God alone knew what else.

I had noticed the brightness in her eyes. The lilt in her voice whenever his name was mentioned. At first I suspected nothing. Then, one of the salesmen who regularly visited my office dropped a hint - a very strong hint. I kept my eyes wide open from then on. The really annoying thing was, that neither of them made any attempt at hiding their feelings. They kept their rendezvous in town. They used the regular hotels. They couldn't even be bothered to go to one in the next town. Then one day, I had returned from work to find the note.

'I've gone.' Then, almost as an afterthought, she had added, 'And I won't be coming back. I've tried, but I want some fun out of life, Sorry Clive. But that's the way it is.' It was signed 'Wendy'.

I quickly pulled myself together. He was just about to step into the hallway. I lined up the sights and aimed just slightly to the left of his spine below his shoulder blade. I squeezed the trigger and the sound, as the firing pin hit home, was deafening to my highly tuned ears.

The door on the other side of the road slowly closed. The tears of frustration were almost freezing on my cheeks as I lovingly dismantled the rifle and wrapped the parts in the brown canvas bags. I hung them from the specially sewn-in hooks inside my coat, then, keeping close to the hedge I made my way to where I had left my old Ford Sierra parked.

As I moved so cautiously along the hedgerow, I couldn't resist muttering to myself, "One of these nights, Mr. Clever-Dick Watts, I'll have a real live bullet beneath that firing pin. Then, you WILL know about it."

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